Trees Of Mystery
Mysterious trees are familiar sites to Roadsiders. However, America's only Trees Of Mystery billed as such are in California, at the northern end of that state's Redwood Exploitation Zone, and prove that you need not be a magician to turn wood into gold.
Giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox guard the entrance of Trees of Mystery, as a mid-morning crowd pours off the coast highway to embrace freaky Redwood hoo-ha. Paul's right hand gives a continual sluggish wave as his breast-pocket loudspeaker greets all who enter in cheery lumberjack fashion. "Hiya, kids. Hi, folks."
Most of Paul's banter involves describing the clothes that people at his feet are wearing, so they don't think he's a recording. "Hello, there...you're wearing a blue sweatshirt! And the lady next to you is wearing a green jacket!" He'll also answer your size questions (Paul is 49 ft. tall, has a 24 ft. long ax, and 10 ft. high boots).
A forest trail winds its way past Paul, up into a giant, hollow, redwood log, and then back to the actual mystery trees, the ones shaped like pretzels and DNA strandoids. "Entirely by the forces of nature," you are reminded. Recorded messages recite each mystery.
The trail takes you to the Cathedral Tree, a cluster of nine redwoods growing out of a single root in a tight semicircle. Pompous music plays over hidden loudspeakers while Nelson Eddy croons Albert Joyce Kilmer's poem, "Trees."
"I think that I shall never seeeeee,
a po-em lovely as a treeeeeee...."
Signs inform appropriately awestruck visitors that countless weddings have been performed at this most beautiful of redwood spots
The last section of the Trees Of Mystery recounts the exploits of tree-biter Bunyan, told through audiotaped "tall tales" and redwood chainsaw carvings. One can only wonder what Joyce Kilmer would've thought of it.
The gift store is a model for other tourist attractions. Bucking the trend of souvenir standardization, it features many customized mementos, like gold-trimmed shot glasses commemorating Trees of Mystery's 50th anniversary. According to a historic display, the original Bunyan, constructed in 1946, lasted only one year. Paul's head, made of paper mache, melted in the winter rains and caved in.